Superb Christmas whale activity in West Cork

22nd Dec 2009 Report III, 22/12/09.

IWDG have validated large whale activity (mostly fin whales) on seven consecutive days 16th-22nd December, in West Cork, which should provide some great sighting opportunities over the Christmas holiday period, if these northerly, settled weather pattern holds.

Today's sightings again suggest we have currently low numbers of fin whales at several sites in West Cork. William Helps had two this morning (22/12/09) off Mill Cove, nr. Rosscarbery while Tony & Louise Manning at the same time were watching two different whales off Dunnycove, Ardfield in Clonakilty Bay. So although we are not dealing with the same large numbers we had in 2009 when were were consistently seeing 12-15 fin whales, or in 2004 when were were recording really impressive numbers of 30-50 fin whales; the fantastic clear, dry weather and fact that these whales are within easy binocular range of shore does compensate.

This is a great end to the year and is a wildlife spectacle worth trying to catch up with for anyone with an interest in natural history and wildlife watching. Let us know how you get on.

Report II, 21/12/09.

With ideal, but cold, conditions prevailing, we skidded our way across to Reen pier, Union Hall at 15MPH to join Colin Barnes for what was our first real opportunity to carry out Photo ID research with whales present this season. I've never before seen thick ice on the roof of his vessel the MV Holly Jo. But these Arctic conditions brought superb visibility and lovely pleasant seas for spotting those elusive blows, and boy but were they elusive.

Having travelling all the way east to the Old Head of Kinsale, we had obviously missed a few fin whales, as the text messages were coming in thick and fast that there were whales in Courtmacsherry bay and south of Seven heads. So we turned back west towards Seven heads and picked up at least two and possibly a third fin whale. No humpbacks were seen and all fin whales were alone. The whales were very difficult to find, as they were feeding on sprat shoals on the bottom, and as a result were spending very little time on the surface. Scattered groups of common dolphins were seen throughout the day, and one group of c10 joined the bow of the Holly Jo for at least 40 mins.

Also seen during the trip were several harbour porpoises and probable bottlenose dolphins, bringing our species tally for the day to four.

Not bad given that it's the winter solstace. On returning back to the office it seems that fin whales were also confirmed by land based observers off Baltimore Beacon. The best estimate was 3-5 animals, again with common dolphins. So IWDG can now confirm that there are currently fin whales inshore at several points between Clonakilty Bay and Baltimore.

‘This project is supported by the West Cork Development Partnership under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013'.

A huge thanks to the following for all your sighting reports: Tim Feen, Rob Howe, Patrick Lombard, Tony O' Connor, Pete & Fran Wolsenholme, Micheal Cottrell, Vince Roantree, and Richard O' Flynn.

Report I, 20/12/09.

All the reports arriving at IWDG from local sea watchers are suggesting strongly that the large whale activity is now centred on the east side of Seven Heads, in Courtmacsherry Bay area of West Cork. Certainly watches in th

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